Several years ago, I heard a sermon preached on parenting according to Psalm 23. I did not take notes, and do not remember the details well, but it made a strong impact on my parenting, and also on how I looked at this Psalm. So I started writing this article several weeks ago, and since then a similar article came out on another blog that I follow. I considered deleting my writing, so that it didn't look like plagurism . . . but the way we applied the Psalm was very different, so I decided to go ahead and publish my article after all.

Psalm 23 for Parents

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Are we meeting the needs of our children? Life overseas can make even meeting physical needs more challenging, but as parents we are pretty good at making sure our children are fed, clothed, warm, and healthy. What about their emotional needs? Do they feel 'want' in their souls? Or are their love-tanks full? It's so easy as parents to focus on the physical needs but neglect the emotional wants of our children. Try to see the world through your little one's eyes and consider what is important to them. When our children know that their needs - both physical and emotional - will be a priority to their parents, it gives them peace and security in spite of other circumstances.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. Is your home a peaceful place? Especially in the chaos of living overseas - transitions, new friends, new culture - your family needs the home to be a place of peace. What does this mean?

  • Find a routine that works for your family, so that your days are peaceful. When children know what to expect and what's expected of them, it brings peace to their hearts.
  • Teach your children to resolve conflict in a peaceful manner.
  • Notice when there is unrest in your children's hearts or actions, and help them resolve it.
  • Keep your heart peaceful (this is the hardest one, right?!) because your children take their cues from you.

He restoreth my soul: Provide soul-food for your children. I don't think this just means have family devotion time or make them read their Bibles (isn't that feeding their spirits?) Consider what ministers to their hearts - good books, creative activities, special family traditions, bedtime cuddles with Mommy or Daddy. Make sure you're feeding their souls.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Lead,guide, show the way, lead by example. One of the struggles that adults, as well as children, face in moving overseas is discerning between good and evil. Things in your home culture that you never questioned suddenly look wrong . . . and you are faced with new things in your host culture that might seem wrong to our American mindset, but are actually not evil. Help your children learn to recognize good and evil seperate from the cultural trappings around them - whether at home or abroad.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; In a very real way, fighting sicknesses like malaria or typhoid, our children may walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But I think this can also apply to the countless losses, and the often unresolved greif that children deal with in moving overseas. It is impossible to keep our children from expereincing these things. But we can give them the support and direction and comfort and understanding that they need to get through it. Be WITH them in their valley.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The rod and the staff were for protection, although also for direction and chastening. Are we protecting our children from the evil around them? This doesn't always mean sheltering them - but sometimes it does. Are we aware of the dangers, the temptations, the wrong influences, even the potential for abuse? Do our children have the comfort and security of our protection?

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Do you abundantly bless your children? Do they feel like their lives are full and overflowing with love and security? Do you give them things to be excited about, things to look forward to? Is your home a place of joy and abundance? This will look different in each family, but again, this is a focus on the emotional and spiritual needs of our children. Let's make sure their little lives are overflowing with peace and joy.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. What a promise! When we shepherd our children in the ways of God as described here, goodness and mercy will surround them, and they will dwell in God's house forever! What more could we want for our children?

Did any of these verses speak to you? What wisdom can you add from shepherding your children? Please share!

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